Saturday, December 27, 2008

End of a Long Silence

I haven’t written in a long time, I apologize – I’ve been traveling a lot and I lost my USB drive with all my rambling writings somewhere in the sand. Its Christmas time now, and things have settled down a bit. Most people are on holiday.

President Bashir came to El Fasher yesterday. The weeks leading up were filled with frantic preparation – painting the curbs black and white, hanging Sudanese flags along the road, rushing to finish construction on the new mosque, military hospital, and ministry buildings. The frenzy of activity built up until the night before when hundreds of workers were still putting up power lines, sweeping the streets, and hammering – I half expected to wake up the next day in a reformed city, with shiny cars, nice buildings, and people singing in the streets.

Bashir’s arrival after all the preparation was anticlimactic, despite the significantly increased amount of armed men careening about town in pick-up trucks. He gave a speech promising peace and a new road to Khartoum, but my Sudanese colleagues were unimpressed.

The most drama occurred when residents of the displaced persons’ camp refused to allow Bashir’s convoy to pass by the camp on its way to the “model village” he was opening and inviting them to live in - so he had to travel the two kilometers by helicopter.

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